When Will It Stop?

5 05 2011

We have reached that inevitable point in the semester. The End. And it is usually at this point that I try to admonish my students with all the usual kinds of things: Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop reaching. Don’t be afraid of change. And don’t let yourself become a dinosaur.

Easier said than done, right?

As I make these admonitions to this year’s crop of Evolutionary Marketing students, I have to ask myself if I am living up to my own recommendations. Am I practicing what I preach? Am I walking the talk?

Because it sure doesn’t look very good when it becomes a “Do as I say, not as I do” ballgame.

Still, I do wonder if I will ever stop embracing change. I like to think that I am forever on the cutting edge of all things new and cool, but I am sure I have some near misses as well as flat out air balls. As I get older (something I can do without any effort), I ponder the idea of whether I will one day pull off at the rest stop of life and say, “Ya know, I think I’ve had about enough. Let’s call it a life.”

It is precisely at that time that I will have joined the ranks of the dinosaurs, the dying and the dead.

God, I hope I never get there. I’m having way too much fun discovering new gadgets, new sites and new apps. “Kid in a toy store” doesn’t begin to describe my giddiness when I peruse the App Store on my iPad.

But I look at my aging parents and know that, if I live long enough (to quote my Mother), I may very well quit doing all this. My parents do not live on the same technological planet as do I. Sure, Mom tried her hand at laptops, but they just frustrated her to no end. She could never remember her email name (much less her password). A “feature phone” is good enough for her. Blinking numbers on the VCR (which they have now given up) were a daily occurrence in their TV room.

And how would I ever begin to explain Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? Smartphones? DVRs? iPads? Heck, to them that little “i” is just further evidence that they have spawned the most narcissistic generation to ever inhabit the earth.

So if I live long enough, will I one day be content to pull the plug on learning? New technology adoption? Life in the gadget fast lane? As much as I hope not, I am coming to the age at which I can see it as a distinct possibility. Yes, I hate that, but seeing Mom and Dad endure the throes of aging (they are both in their 80s) has caused me to rethink living and dying, young and old, active and passive.

I once told my students I planned to live to be at least 100, but I was still in my 30s when I made those boastful remarks. Now that I am in my 50s, I am a couple of decades closer to the finish line. Maybe living to 100 isn’t such a great idea. I also see my peers already starting to draw a line in the evolutionary sand. Just last night I bumped into a former colleague who said “I don’t do Facebook.” I am sure she wondered what was up with my incredibly puzzled look. I simply cannot imagine life without the social graph, but at the same time, I wonder if I would be so head-over-heels in love with it if I were not teaching it.

My goal is to keep up the pace as long as possible, but now realizing that I will probably reach an age at which I, just like my parents, say that’s about enough. I hope to delay it as long as possible. Heck, if I am lucky, maybe I will die sliding head first into a status update. At least no one will be able to make fun of me for not being with it.

More importantly, my desire for my students, all of whom are much younger than me these days, is that the Rest Stop Of Life does not even begin to look attractive for many, many years. There are lots of new things coming down the pike as we speak. And there are many more things to come the likes of which have not even been imagined. Don’t give up on the future. Because the alternative is just not that rosy.

It has been another great adventure this semester, and I thank each and every one of my students for providing great company as well as intellectual colloquy. May you go forth with the wild-eyed ambitions of a 5-year-old. May you always find yourself reaching for something more, something new, something better. And may you come to learn that, in the end, it really was all about the journey, and not the destination.

Because it really doesn’t have to stop.

Dr “Blessings & Peace” Gerlich



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